MEET TANYA, AGE 6
Most little girls beg their mothers for dresses, dolls, toys and treats. But for Tanya*, there is nothing in the world she wants more than a hug or kiss from her mother. That’s because Tanya’s mom is not around a lot, and when she is, she doesn’t take good care of Tanya. A couple of weeks ago, Tanya’s mother was investigated by Child Protective Services for allegations of neglect and drug abuse, and Tanya was placed in the temporary custody of her great aunt. After living with her great aunt for a little while, Tanya began opening up, and a few days ago, she told her auntie that her mom’s friend touched her on her privates.
Tanya’s great aunt brought her to the Center for Child Protection for a forensic interview, and almost immediately, Tanya impressed Center staff with her good behavior. Like a little adult, she politely asked for permission to play in the play-kitchen, and by the time the Child Protection Team finished staffing her case, she had made “lunch” for everyone. When it came time for the interview, Tanya hopped into the child-sized chair and began talking about all her new friends she’d left behind in the playroom. As she became more comfortable, she started talking about her mother. It became apparent that Tanya acts like an adult because she often has to take care of her mom and her mom’s friends. Then Tanya told the interviewer that one of her mom’s friends made her do something bad. She cried as she recounted what happened and pulled her knees up to her chest to comfort herself, revealing numerous holes in the soles of her shoes. When she finished talking, the interviewer thanked her for being strong and brave. Hearing this, Tanya looked up from her knees with a teary smile.
After the interview, the team met with Tanya’s great aunt and confirmed her fears. The great aunt was devastated, and became even more distressed when she learned that Tanya’s shoes were riddled with holes. She expressed concerns that Tanya would be placed in foster care if she couldn’t afford to provide for her, even temporarily. The interviewer explained that the Center has an Emergency Fund and Kid’s Closet to help struggling families like theirs, and at once, the great aunt’s face filled with relief and she completed an application. Half an hour later, the interviewer informed the great aunt that her application for emergency assistance was approved, and then she presented Tanya with a brand new pair of shoes. Squealing with delight, Tanya tossed her old shoes aside and carefully slid her little feet into her new shoes, like a little Cinderella with glass slippers. Armed with new shoes, and the comfort of knowing the Center’s there for them, Tanya and her great aunt left the Center with renewed hope.
Through comprehensive programming built around the forensic interview, the Center for Child Protection can ensure that families like Tanya’s have access to resources that enable them to move forward. In the coming months, Tanya’s mother will have to prove that she is willing and capable of protecting her little girl. Until then, the Center will be there, no matter how many pairs of shoes it takes.
*Names and other identifying circumstances have been changed to protect the privacy of children and families.